DALTON — Seven days ago, the Wahconah and South Hadley boys basketball teams hooked up in a nail-biter in the Pioneer Valley that Wahconah won. Wednesday night, the two teams did it again, but with a different result.

The visiting Tigers hit 12 three-point baskets in the game, taking the lead for good early in the third quarter. The Warriors did not go away and had a chance to send a second game into overtime. But Pat McLaughlin could not convert on a drive through traffic with under 10 seconds left. South Hadley’s Eddie Wykowski made one of two free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining, and a desperation trey by Luke DiCicco was no good as the visitors earned a measure of revenge with a 66-63 win before a raucous crowd in the new Wahconah gym.

The loss was the first of the year for Wahconah, now 7-1. When these teams played in South Hadley a week ago, the Warriors scored 36 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to beat South Hadley.

“You’ve got to credit them. They did a good job of keeping us out of any kind of rhythm, I thought,” Wahconah coach Dustin Belcher said. “I will say if we score 63 points, we should win a ballgame. I’m not happy with our defensive response. We gave way too many threes tonight and we didn’t close out particularly well.”

The Tigers shot 12 for 21 from outside the arc. Compare that with Wahconah going 3 for 14 from long distance. It seemed like every time Wahconah had the basketball South Hadley made it really difficult to score. And when the Warriors did not score, the Tigers did a better job rebounding the basketball. South Hadley had 41 rebounds to 25 for Wahconah. Eddie Wykowski had a game-high 15 boards, and scored 12 points for a double-double. He was one of four Tigers to score in double figures.

“We just did the same thing we’ve done all year, we just played ‘D,’” South Hadley coach Chris Gerber said. “Halfcourt, man. You know what you’re going to get when you play us.”

Pat McLaughlin had a game-high 27 points, while Brody Calvert had 25.

“They absolutely dominated us on the boards, so credit to them,” Belcher said. “We didn’t do the tough stuff tonight. That’s not to suggest that we didn’t give our all. The effort was there. The little things you need to do to win a basketball game, we didn’t do. We didn’t rebound the ball, and we didn’t react on defense to get out on their shooters.”

After trailing by as many as 11, Wahconah was down 48-41 after three and trailed 51-43 with 6:24 left in regulation. McLaughlin, who had 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, scored five straight points to cut South Hadley’s lead to three. From there, the Tigers kept extending the lead to seven or eight and the Warriors kept trimming the advantage.

With 2:20 to play, Chase Mathers, who had 20 to lead South Hadley, was fouled by Calvert. It was Calvert’s fourth foul and Mathers made both free throws for a 64-56 lead. McLaughlin answered with a tough drive to the rack and after Mathers traveled, McLaughlin drained a triple of his own. All of a sudden, it was a 64-61 game.

The Tigers brought the ball into the front court, but Wahconah’s pressure forced Mathers to travel. McLaughlin scored on the next drive and it was 64-63.

Wahconah took a timeout to set things up. Instead of getting a turnover, Calvert fouled out while trying to take a charge and sent Colin Quinn to the line. Quinn missed the first foul shot and made the second, which gave Wahconah the chance to tie with a two or take the lead with a three.

McLaughlin got the ball at the top of the key, drove through traffic, but the shot would not fall. Wykowski got the rebound, made one of two at the line, and DiCicco buzzer-beater from just inside halfcourt hit the backboard.

Wahconah led this Bi-County East matchup 17-9 after one quarter. The Tigers came out in the second and scored 14 straight points, making five of their first six shots. Not even a timeout by Belcher could stop the run. With 4:48 left, South Hadley had turned an eight-point deficit into a 23-17 lead.

Wahconah did tie the score late in the half on a Calvert free throw, but Liam Quinn drained a 3-ball with 17 seconds left, giving South Hadley a 31-28 halftime lead.

The home side started chasing points when South Hadley came out on a 7-0 run to open the third quarter. Colin Quinn had five of the seven and Wykowski scored on a putback of a 3-point miss by Quinn. That forced Belcher to take a timeout, to keep the game from getting away.

The Warriors trailed by as many as 11 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Tigers could not, however, put the Warriors away.

”The whole thing is about getting better every day,” Belcher said. “This is just a good learning experience for us. We’ll be better for it in the long run, but we need to recognize the things that hurt us tonight and get better at it.”

The Warriors are scheduled to play Pittsfield High on Saturday and Taconic on Monday.



Dawson 0-0-0, LaPorte 0-0-0, C. Quinn 5-3-15, Mathers 5-5-20, Mendoza 2-0-4, L. Quinn 5-0-15, Wykowski 5-2-12, Fitzell 0-0-0. Totals 22-10-66.


Payson 0-0-0, Calvert 8-7-25, DiCicco 0-0-0, Melle 1-0-3, Noyes 4-0-8, McLaughlin 9-8-27. Totals 22-15-63.

South Hadley 9 22 17 18 — 66

Wahconah 17 11 13 22 — 63

3-point goals — SH 12 (Mathers 5, L. Quinn 5, C. Quinn 2). W 4 (Calvert 2, Melle, McLaughlin).

Howard Herman can be reached at  hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253. 


Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.